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Council accused of 'anti-democratic' behaviour over cancelled peer review meeting

Anti-democratic is how a residents group has labelled the Royal Borough after a meeting with the Local Government Association’s peer review team was cancelled by the council's managing director.

RBWM Residents Action Group has accused the council of interfering with the independent review, which looks to highlight areas the council could improve on.

The residents group, which is made up of representatives of parish councils and neighbourhood planning groups, was set up earlier this year to campaign against the council’s Borough Local Plan (BLP) consultation process.

Naheed Majeed, spokesman for the group, said managing director Alison Alexander emailed them on Monday night cancelling Tuesday’s meeting.

Despite the email, the group attempted to attend the meeting but was sent into a private room for a meeting with Ms Alexander.

She said: “We were made to feel like criminals, this is not democracy. It was anti-democratic, especially when we were formally invited by the LGA peer group.

“Alison Alexander clearly showed her partiality, her position is completely compromised. It’s the same principle of Grenfell Tower – with the council not listening to residents. It feels like we have nowhere to go.”

In the email, seen by the Advertiser, Ms Alexander states: “Following your request to meet with the LGA peer reviewers I have reviewed the email correspondence and stood down the meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

“The reason for this decision is that the Peer Review is not about the BLP. There have been and will continue to be opportunities to talk about the BLP with the council.”

Ms Alexander also attempted to cancel the LGA’s meeting with Cllr Geoff Hill (Con, Oldfield) and Cllr Asghar Majeed (Con, Oldfield) but the Advertiser understands this went ahead in Maidenhead Library after Cllr Hill contacted the LGA directly on Monday night.

When contacted by the Advertiser, the LGA said it was ‘quite willing’ to meet with the residents group.

Cllr David Renard, leader of Swindon Borough Council, a member of the peer review team said: “We want to reiterate that the Peer Review team was willing to meet with the residents and hear what they have to say.”

When asked why the meeting was cancelled, a spokesman from the council said: We organised the timetable for the LGA, which involves them speaking to a wide cross-section of residents, stakeholders and staff who reflect our delivery approach.

“The managing director took the decision to cancel a separate meeting with a group of residents. The managing director opted to hold a private meeting with them to discuss their specific concerns and will have further conversations with them as part of our ongoing consultation and engagement with residents.

“Following the review, the LGA will return a public report with its findings. This will then feed into an action plan to focus on any areas that have been identified for further improvement.”

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